2019 Cricket World Cup – Australia v Sri Lanka: Not pretty, but it does the trick

Unconvincing victories appear to be the trend.

Following a couple of frightening wins over Pakistan and the West Indies, Australia had looked to turn a corner with their top order batting efforts against Pakistan. A Warner ton at a faster strike rate could only spell good things. Finch was firing effectively. Khawaja and Smith were both contributing well. Starc and Cummins were leading the competition in wickets and economy rates.


Then Sri Lanka came along.

Finch stayed consistent, blasting the openers around at a solid rate. He was at his crisp best, punching straight drives down the ground in a clear indicator he wasn’t going to fall over his front pad working the ball to leg today. But Warner lapsed. He was tentative, not looking to hit through the ball. When part time off spinner De Silva came on, all eyes turned to Warner to take the attack to him. Warner had been striking at 50, meaning he needed to pick his game up. But no – Warner hid in his shell and didn’t advance down the crease once. This proved to be his last move, missing a straight one while trying to cut off middle stump and being bowled.


Khawaja was left with a heavy burden. With De Silva now confident and accurate, Usman and Finch had to work hard. Finch was motoring along fine, working into his innings and finding a good scoring rate. Khawaja realised he had to take the fight to the spinner, and fell when his crisp sweep shot hit the hands of a boundary rider.


Smith did Smith things. He found it the going easier, racing to a half-century at a run a ball. There was no struggle, no patches of getting bogged down. Smith just used his feet to the spinners and his brain to the pace bowlers. Suddenly, a troubling Australian position was injected with some serious scoreboard additions. Finch had his shackles freed, racing to a century and then going on to 153. His last 50 was made with some crunching shots. No matter where it was, Finch was putting it to the boundary. There’s no elegance in Finch’s strokes. It’s all brute aggression that is so Australian, so hardworking.


But the main danger to Sri Lanka was Smith. He could do anything. Only Kohli and Root have the same ability as him. They can steady their team and then suddenly crank the aggression to max level. His lofted drive to deposit Malinga into the crowd was breath taking. His 73 was worth so much more, and it allowed Maxwell to ignore the wickets falling at the other end to at least wrap up the innings with a confidence-boosting 46 not out. Once again, the middle order didn’t click but Australia posted a commanding score surpassing 300.


This should’ve been more than enough, but Sri Lanka’s risky batsmen had other plans.

From the first over, which went for 12, Sri Lanka batted with such brazen abandon that they could easily flog the bowlers to the boundary. Starc, Cummins, Richardson – it didn’t matter. They disrupted Australia’s plan by forcing them to take Starc and Cummins off early, meaning they brought on the slower Richardson and Behrendorff sooner. And that only brought more runs. A Starc re-introduction yielded the much-needed wickets of Perera for an unorthodox half century. Behrendorff and Maxwell then combined for some tight overs that finally built up some dot ball pressure. Something had to give, and Behrendorff remained patient enough to pick up Thirimanne.


But captain Karunaratne kept going. In a rare touch of fast-flowing stroke play, he didn’t stop and blink until he reached the 90s. When on 97, a brain fade meant he was walking off in dismay after falling to the catching backward point trap, as Maxwell clung onto a catch to gift Richardson a wicket.


Once their captain went, Sri Lanka spluttered. Mendis offered some hope for a blitzing chase, but Starc got him just before he could cut loose. Cummins then joined Starc to rip through the middle order and finish the game. Richardson snagged some consolation wickets to make his figures look more respectable. That’ll only paper over the cracks that Australia’s third and fourth seam options are littered with.


The end result didn’t do justice to Sri Lanka’s fight. Their dare when batting. Their superb end to their bowling innings. And it didn’t shine the light on Australia’s flaws. Their consistently poor middle to late order batting come the end of the innings. Their lack of other options if Starc and Cummins don’t do the trick. They need a spinner, and a more consistent third pace bowler who can tie down the middle overs. Who would’ve thought losing Stoinis would disrupt their stability so much? Next is Bangladesh, who are capable of causing a mammoth upset if the Aussies don’t work out their balance issues.


Australia – 7/334 (50 overs)

Finch 153 (132 balls)                                                                         De Silva 2/ 40 (8 overs)

Smith 73 (59)                                                                                     Udana 2/ 57 (10)

Maxwell 46 not out (25)                                                                    Malinga 1/ 61 (10)


Sri Lanka – 247 all out (45.5)

Karunaratne 97 (108)                                                                       Starc 4/ 55 (10)

Perera 52 (36)                                                                                    Richardson 3/ 47 (9)

Mendis 30 (37)                                                                                   Cummins 2/ 38 (7.5)



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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